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When visiting the wonder of Asia that is Sri Lanka, your itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a trip to one of the amazing Safaris on offer in the country. When you think of a safari, we typically think of Africa, but don’t underestimate the greatness of a Sri Lanka Safari.
It is easily one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka and when it came to deciding what safari in Sri Lanka I would opt for, there was A LOT of choice. So I figured to make your life a little easier, a guide covering all you need to know about safaris in Sri Lanka would be pretty useful.
So, with that in mind, keep reading this guide to create the perfect Sri Lanka safari holidays...
Let’s begin with our experience.
We visited the Wilpattu National Park Safari which is well known for its leopard sightings, and is actually the reason I choose it. I love elephants, but I’ve seen a lot of elephants, so I figured we could try and spot something different. It was an AMAZING safari, and fantastically priced on booking. com and you can read about the experience here.
But imagine, staying in a luxury tent, dining underneath the stars, and you’ll have a taste of what a Wilpattu National Park Safari is like.
There are 22 national parks in Sri Lanka. But with so much choice, it’s hard to know where to start searching for the perfect Sri lanka safari tours. Sri Lanka wildlife consists of amazing elephants, bears, leopards and so much more.
Here’s a detailed look at the 6 most popular national parks in Sri Lanka for safaris.
Yala national park is probably the most popular and well known safari in all of Sri Lanka. It’s the second largest national park in Sri Lanka and it’s a wonderful safari experience for all, especially families.
Yala safari is located around six hours from Colombo which is why most people organise a tour here (some of which I’ve listed below).
Animals to see in Yala national park safari:
The only problem with Yala is that because it is so popular, you’re going to be in a park that is filled with jeeps. You may even see more jeeps than animals, and because of the high number of visitors, the chances of seeing leopards is slim due to the noise etc. But, you have a very high chance of seeing lots of elephants, so if you love elephants and don’t mind the crowds, then it’s a great choice!
Yala is closed during the drought season from the 1st of September to the 15th of October, but you can visit other national parks at this time, including Wilpattu.
Be aware that all my safari suggestions below include accommodation and safari for one night unless otherwise stated. I always find it’s best to get everything booked beforehand, plus it makes you excited!
If you want an out of this world Yala safari experience, then these spots will not fail to deliver.
$450 per person
This is an excellent Sri Lanka safari that offers luxurious accommodation amongst the jungle with an all inclusive experience. Imagine sleeping in a luxury treehouse with your own camp fire underneath the stars.
The price is excellent for the beautiful accommodation, all your food and drink and two game drives with a professional and qualified guide.
They take care of everything, so all you need to worry about is spotting animals and having an amazing time!
You can do a 2 night version of this same trip but with Viator.
$725 for two people all inclusive
This is a brilliant safari tour and you can go for an all-inclusive option that includes all your food, drinks, alcohol drinks and 2 game drives. Great value. The accommodation is in the style of luxury tents with little decks which is perfect for dining under the stairs.
It will feel like you're camping in Sri Lanka, but in ultimate luxury.
Prices start at $700 for two people all inclusive
An all-inclusive stay with accommodation location within the jungle and a safari experience. Everything is included within this price, food, drinks, alcoholic drinks, spa experiences. It’s TOTAL luxury, but it’s expensive, but you can see why.
It's the perfect jungle safari in Sri Lanka.
Take me with you. Book your stay here.
If you want a budget experience in Yala national park, then you’ll need to book cheap accommodation within Yala vicinity then book a day safari. You’ll still get all the animal sightings experience, but miss out on the camping and dinner under the stars. Below are some great value choices.
$37.50 per person
Includes pick up and drop off from your hotel in Yala, Katagrama area, and a 4 hour safari keep experience. Get it here.
$38.25 per person
If you’re on time constraints, then this is a great choice. It includes pick up from your hotel and you can arrange an early money or afternoon safari experience to suit your day. Includes a private driver for a private experience.
Great choice for couples on a budget looking for a Yala safari.
$220 dollars per night
I’ve also included this one, as I think it’s a budget option for two reasons:
$288 per night (based on two people sharing)
This mid-range accommodation offers you the chance to stay in a beautiful tent within the jungle alongside breakfast and dinner under the stairs. The price includes a 5 hour game drive and it’s a great choice for those who have a little extra to spend and would like the overnight experience of a safari. 5 hours is a good amount of time to see some amazing animals!
$264 per night (based on two people sharing)
Big Game camp is the company that Bradley and I stayed with in Wilpattu, and they offer safari experiences in both Yala and Udawalawe.
You get five star service for a mid range price, and I personally think it’s excellent value for money. You get to stay in a luxury tent underneath the stars in jungle surroundings. The dining underneath the stars in the evening is a spectacular experience with a 5 course meal.
The staff at Big Game Camp are outstanding across the board and you’ll truly not want to leave!
With the safari option you get a half day safari, an afternoon tea, and breakfast and dinner under the stars.
I’ve included two safaris which I think ooze romance and bliss for couples who simply want to have a romantic safari experience, or who are celebrating their honeymoon. These are both all inclusive options and include two game drives.
The tents are beyond luxurious and it’s a truly wilderness safari experience that screams romance. You’ll see what I mean…
$467 based on two people sharing
$678 based on two people sharing
Wilpattu national park is a perfect choice if you’re visiting the cultural hubs of Anuradhapura as it’s only 30 minutes away by tuk tuk. This is the park Bradley and I visited and it’s wonderful.
It’s famous for its natural pools of water that exist, so you get a true essence of the “wild” here. It’s the perfect safari in Sri Lanka for all seasons as both the wet and dry season bring different types of animals.
Wilpattu is among the top national parks world-renowned for its leopard population, which is why Bradley and I visited. The best time to visit Wilpattu is February to October, but you can visit all year round with certain eco groups.
Animals to see in Wilpattu national park safari:
Wilpattu is a quiet national park, probably because it was closed for so long, but that’s a good thing. You will only come across 2 or 3 jeeps on your journey (if even that) and you will truly feel like you’ve got the whole park to you and the wildlife, which I think is what a true safari experience should be like.
So if you want a secluded Sri Lankan Safari experience, then this is the perfect one for you.
This is a fantastic all-inclusive option for a Wilpattu Safari experience. It includes everything you could ever need, food, drink, alcohol drinks, One Half-day safari ride in a luxury jeep with forward-facing seats, even a picnic lunch on the safari day, and much more.
A 5 star resort that oozes luxury, and it’s no surprise with the price. It includes everything you need including, food, drinks, alcoholic drinks, and two game drives.
If you are on a time constraint, then an afternoon safari in Wilpattu is a great idea. This tour leaves from Anuradhapura, which is perfect as it’s only 20 minutes away and something you can do after a morning of sightseeing in the area!
This is the safari in Sri Lanka that Brad and I went on. I can say it’s amazing value, an amazing experience and you can read all about it here.
Udawalawe national park is located near South of Sri Lanka and it is literally bursting with Sri Lankan elephants...more than 500, so it’s an elephant lovers dream. You’re almost guaranteed to spot them with those numbers.
This is a perfect choice for those who want to get awesome pictures of elephants and baby elephants. It’s a fairly popular park, but won’t have the same crowds of Yala, so it’s a good choice for those looking for something in between Wilpattu and Yala, and since it’s good for spotting animals all year round, there are no seasonal restrictions on when you visit.
That's why people love a Sri Lanka safari Udawalawe.
All all-inclusive tent jungle experience in beautiful Udawalawe. Highly rated food, accommodation and safari experience, this is an excellent choice for families and friends. Reviews say they take you up real close to the elephants!
If you’d like your own romantic private safari tour of Udawalawe national park then this is a great value choice. It’s a half day safari giving you the chance to spot some animals in a morning game drive.
I’ve said before how brilliant our experience with Big Game Camp was in Wilpattu and it seems like the experience in Udawalawe is just as good according to the reviews, value and what’s offered.
Minneriya national park is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, and it’s a perfect choice if you’re visiting Sigiriya, (which you should). It’s one of the most important bird areas in Sri Lanka. It has an interesting elephant story…
According to the wardens, one elephant lost her baby due when pregnant due to being hit by a jeep, so as revenge, she rammed into over 15 tourists since then.
People tend to take a Minneriya national park safari for the chance of seeing elephants and monkeys. So if you’re a fan of both, then this is a good spot. A good time to take a Minneriya national park safari is July to September as that’s when the elephants flock there.
With regards to booking online, there isn’t a WIDE range of choice, but there is a good value private tour listed below. This is because the park isn’t as popular as other marks, so it’s really only worth a day tour, rather than an overnight safari experience.
If you’re on a time constraint, then opt for this. Because you will be near Sigiriya, it’s always worth staying there, then doing your safari from there. It’s popular for companies and lodges to offer safaris with them too.
If you need a place to stay near Minneriya, then I recommend the Cassandra Culture Resort, because it’s cheap, luxurious and has amazing views. You won’t regret it, trust me.
If you’d like your own private safari tour of Minneriya national park sorted before you arrive, then this is a good choice. It also offers pick up and drop off within the area which will save on tuk tuk costs!
Bundala National Park is an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. It’s located in the Southern area of Sri Lanka and it well known for its bird population and it’s located around 4.5 hours from Colombo.
I haven’t heard much about this park in terms of reviews, and it’s very close to Yala so it probably loses a lot of competition from there, but that’s probably a good thing which makes it quieter to visit.
I think is probably one of the least visited national parks in Sri Lanka and it’s not a good choice if you want to see elephants. But, if you like birds and reptiles then it’s a great choice! The best time to take a Bundala national park safari is September to March.
If you’re looking for a full day safari in Bundala then this is a great choice. You’ll start your day at 5.30 with a pick up from your hotel and head out to find amazing animals, then you’ll stop half way through for a picnic lunch in the jungle, then head back to your hotel at around 4.30pm.
Wasgamuwa national park is located central of Sri Lanka and was actually created by the government to help displaced wild animals (one of four).
This safari village offers budget accommodation, and you can book on a great value safari trip when you are there. They offer both full day and half way game drives.
$980 based on two people sharing
This is definitely a luxurious option for those looking to truly relax and unwind on their safari experience.
It’s an all inclusive option that covers your food, drink, alcoholic beverages, luxury tented accommodation and of course your high quality game drive with guide. You even get a picnic on your drive as well!
You can opt to stay overnight in the park for one or two nights on an all inclusive options with tented accommodation, 3 course dinner, beer, and two safari game drives for twice the chances to spot amazing animals.
Kumana national park safari is located near Arugam bay, and you can actually do a tuk-tuk safari before you get to the official entrance, which is pretty cool. You can spot elephants, deer and water buffalo.
Kumana was formerly known as Yala East National Park, but changed to its present name on 5th September 2006.
I think this is a good safari in Sri Lanka if you’re surfing in Arugam bay and just want something close and easy. You might not see as many animals as you would on say, a Yala safari, but it’s fun all the same!
If you’d like the chance to stay overnight and do camping with a safari experience, then this is a great choice and it’s even better as it’s organised from Colombo which is where you’ll be flying in to!
Ridiyagama is a safari park and the first of is kind in all of Sri Lanka. It’s 500 acres and it’s more a zoo, I’d say, except you’re the ones in cages and the animals roam free.
This was one Sri Lanka national park I wasn't aware of before my research, or during my visit.
This safari has animals from other countries too such as camels, zebras, lions, etc, but they all roam free. You can take a day tour to it here from Colombo.
Cost for entrance into Ridiyagama safari park:
Adult: LKR 2500.00
If you've been wondering about a Sri Lanka safari price, it can range greatly.
You can definitely get a cheap safari by using online websites like the suggestions I’ve made above, but mainly the cheap way to do it is to book your accommodation with booking.com and book an full day or half day tour with an online booking company.
If you want luxury, then you can find that too, and the safaris in Sri Lanka that I suggested above are about as luxurious as it gets!
Personally I think yes. When you get to Sri Lanka and try and buy a safari in a tour or something, then you’ll often get charged more because you’re white and people often expect you to have lots of money.
It can sometimes be hard and hassle to negotiate, so if you book a tour ahead of time, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting for your money and you can pay for it in advanced. Overall, Sri Lanka safari tours are bet bought in advance.
There are safaris in Sri Lanka available all year round. So depending on the month you decide to go, you’ll find something.
I hope you have enjoyed my post on safaris in Sri Lanka. I’ve tried to include every safari that is available in Sri Lanka that you could possibly want. If you visit any of these places, let me know what you thought and if you enjoyed it.
If you're wondering what is the best safari in Sri Lanka, personally my favourite is the Big Game Camp, because that’s where I stayed, but to be honest, they all look fantastic and whatever you choose, you’ll have a wonderful safari experience in Sri Lanka!